HC Deb 04 June 1857 vol 145 cc1182-4

in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to enable Married Women to dispose of Reversionary Interests in Personal Estate, stated that it was the same measure which had passed through the House of Commons in the years 1854 and 1856 without opposition, but which had failed to pass through the other House of Parliament, from the circumstance that he had not been able to induce any noble Lord in that House to move the Second Reading, owing to the influence of the only person who opposed, a noble and learned Lord of great legal eminence. He had, however, been more fortunate this Session, and he had every reason to hope that, under the auspices of the noble Lord who had undertaken to move the Second Reading, the Measure would be successful. The Bill related solely to the reversionary interests of married women in personal estate. As the law at present stood, a married woman had full power to dispose of real estate, whether in possession, reversion, remainder, or contingency. The House was doubtless aware that as the law now stood, the wife could, by executing a simple deed, with the consent of her husband, dispose of her real estate, just as though she were an unmarried woman, but with reference to personal property, in expectancy, the law was different, for although the husband and wife might be equally anxious to dispose of reversionary property, or to effect a loan or a mortgage upon it, such was the existing state of the law, that those steps could not be taken in the case of the wife, except liable to the condition of her outliving her husband, and the husband was equally powerless, unless in the event of his surviving his wife. The practical inconvenience which followed was this—that loans or mortgages could only be effected upon the most unfavourable terms, and whereas the law of England tended to make property alienable, this particular species of property was virtually rendered inalienable. There was no reason why the principle of the law which applied to real estate should not apply to reversionary personal estate, and the object of the Bill which he proposed to introduce was to correct the anomaly. Therefore, it would still, supposing the Bill to pass, be impossible to alienate such property without the wife's assent; but with that assent—taken, be it observed, separate and apart from the husband—it would be possible, as it ought to be, to deal with it. The Bill was not opposed by the Government; indeed his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had informed him that, if it did not pass this Session, he should himself embody its principle in a Government measure, and introduce it on a future occasion.


thought that the public at large would be greatly indebted to his hon. and learned Friend if he succeeded in passing this Bill into law, for it would remove a great anomaly, which was not, in truth, a legitimate deduction from the law of England, but which had grown up out of a decision now too old and too frequently followed to be reversed by anything but Parliamentary interference. The result of this anomaly was that a married woman might be the owner of the reversion of £40,000 or £50,000 contingent on her outliving her husband, and yet not be able to raise a shilling for her immediate use.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. MALINS and Mr. MULLINGS.

Bill read 1o.